Pickles are a household staple and can be found in the depths of many refrigerators. The juicy spears typically accompany your burger and fries to add some salty zest to your meal. But you may have never wondered about the nutritional benefits of this crunchy snack—or the salty juice it’s cured in.
Recently, though, pickle juice has been touted as a nutritional superfood and a low-calorie sports drink. You can even buy it by the bottle—sans pickles. Nutritional information varies by brand and recipe, but most pickle juice contains less than 20 calories (and zero grams of fat) per 3.5-ounce serving.
However, pickle juice is also high in sodium: A small 3.5-ounce serving can contain 50% to 115% of the recommended daily intake for the mineral.
Sodium can be a benefit to some people and in some circumstances, but it can also contribute to high blood pressure and other health problems. For that reason, it should be consumed in moderation, Megan Roosevelt, RDN and founder of HealthyGroceryGirl.com, tells Health. “You may want skip pickle juice if you’re following a low sodium diet, have a history of gout, or previous negative experience drinking pickle juice,” she says.
Besides being a salty and savory treat, pickle juice may also have health benefits. Here are five reasons it just might be good for you.
Pickle juice has been called a natural Gatorade, and it's been utilized by athletes looking to cut down on sugary sports drinks. It is true that athletes might benefit from pickle juice because of its high sodium content, Cynthia Sass, RD, Health contributing nutrition editor, tells Health.
When you sweat, you lose fluid and electrolytes—including sodium. “Pickle juice can be a very good source of sodium, and some athletes like the taste,” Sass says. But the flavor can be intense, she adds, and since people will probably drink a small amount of pickle juice at a time, it should not be your only method of hydration to replace electrolytes.
A 2010 study from North Dakota State University found that muscle cramps could be resolved in a minute and a half with 1.5 oz of pickle juice for every 100 pounds of body weight. The researchers couldn’t say for sure why pickle juice had this effect on cramping, but they hypothesized that it triggered a reflex in the mouth that sent a signal to the nerves.
It’s also not clear what component of pickle juice is responsible for this potential benefit. “Some research supports the idea that the vinegar in pickle juice may help with cramping, rather than its sodium content,” Sass says, “but it hasn't been well studied."
Pickles are very high in sodium, which can be great for increasing hydration before and after a workout. According to Sass, water is attracted to sodium—so when you replace the sodium lost via sweat, you retain more water as a result.
Relief from stomach aches
Pickle juice could be a natural remedy for stomach pain. “The vinegar in pickle juice may be beneficial for reducing bloating and boosting levels of good bacteria in the digestive tract,” Sass says. This is because some stomach pain is caused by low acidity, which the addition of vinegar can restore.
Pickle juice might also be the answer to your hangover needs. "The main component of pickle juice that may support a hangover is the water and sodium, which help restore electrolytes and bring your body back to balance," says Roosevelt.
Of course, not over-indulging in the first place is always the best way to avoid feeling sick the next morning. But if you do find yourself under the weather after a night of too many drinks, a sip from the pickle jar may help you feel better faster.